Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has attracted widespread attention worldwide for playing that combines a natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship. The intensity of her playing has regularly been lauded, as has the spontaneity and sensitivity of her interpretations. Following her Zankel Hall recital debut in 2008, Justin Davidson of New York Magazine said: “Whatever she plays sounds custom-composed for her, as if she has a natural affinity with everything.” In September 2011 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and in 2010 she became an exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics, the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in over 30 years.
She has appeared with all of the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe with conductors including Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Andrew Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Mark Elder, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Paavo Järvi, Jeffrey Kahane, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Ludovic Morlot, Peter Oundjian, Matthias Pintscher, Yuri Temirkanov, Osmo Vänskä, Simone Young and David Zinman.
Ms. Weilerstein’s 2011-12 season included return engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Minnesota and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, and the Hamburg Philharmonic. In November and December 2011 she toured Australia, appearing with the Melbourne, West Australian and Sydney Symphonies with conductors Tadaaki Otaka (Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations), Paul Daniel (Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1) and Osmo Vänskä (Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto) respectively. During this tour period she made her debut with the Seoul Philharmonic in Korea. In May 2012 she will make her debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London performing the Dvorák Cello Concerto with Juraj Valchau. She will also undertake an eight-city recital tour of Europe with pianist Inon Barnatan.
This season Ms. Weilerstein has been appointed the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra’s Artist in Residence. Her residency includes four orchestral concerts, beginning in October 2011 with performances of Walton’s Cello Concerto with Marin Alsop, and concluding in February 2012 with Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante with Paavo Järvi. The residency also features a chamber concert with Inon Barnatan and clarinetist Jochen Tschabrun.
A major milestone in Ms. Weilerstein’s career took place in May 2010 when she performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Daniel Barenboim in Oxford, England for the orchestra’s 2010 European Concert. This concert was televised live to an audience of millions worldwide and also released on DVD by EuroArts. This performance, which followed her Berliner Philharmoniker debut with Mr. Barenboim days earlier, was described by Tom Service of The Guardian as “…the most technically complete and emotionally devastating performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto that I have ever heard live…”. Ms. Weilerstein will record this concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle in April 2012, pairing this work with Elliott Carter’s Cello Concerto, for her debut Decca Classics release.
In 2009, Ms. Weilerstein was one of four artists invited by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to participate in a widely-applauded and high profile classical music event at the White House that included student workshops hosted by the First Lady, and playing for guests including President Obama and the First Family. A month later she was the soloist on a tour of Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, led by Gustavo Dudamel. She has subsequently made numerous return visits to Venezuela to teach and perform with the orchestra as part of its famed El Sistema program of music education.
In August 2010 she made her BBC Proms debut with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. She subsequently performed this work on a 15-city U.S. tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic led by Yuri Temirkanov and Nikolai Alexeev in 2011 that included the country’s major concert venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and Carnegie Hall, cementing her reputation as an impassioned and insightful interpreter of this work.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Ms. Weilerstein is a fervent champion of new music. She has performed Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra around the world. This piece, originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma, was rewritten for Ms. Weilerstein for the New York premiere at the opening night of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival. She also frequently performs Mr. Golijov’s Omaramor for solo cello. In 2011, Ms. Weilerstein gave the world premiere of a new song cycle for cello and piano by Gabriel Kahane, Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, with Mr. Kahane at the University of California in Santa Barbara and subsequently toured this work to Vancouver, Minneapolis and Bethesda. Ms. Weilerstein and Mr. Kahane will perform the New York City premiere of this piece for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in April 2012. In 2008 she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with Ms. Auerbach at the Caramoor International Music Festival. The duo has subsequently performed this work, juxtaposing it with Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes for Piano arranged for cello and piano by Ms. Auerbach, at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Kennedy Center and for San Francisco Performances.
Ms. Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world, including Aspen, Bad Kissengen, Delft, Edinburgh, Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Mostly Mozart, Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood and Verbier. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, Ms. Weilerstein performs regularly as a chamber musician. She has been part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA for the past eight years and she also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, which is the Trio-in-Residence at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
In 2008 Ms. Weilerstein was awarded Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and she was named the winner of the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2000 and was selected for two prestigious young artists programs in 2000-01; the ECHO (European Concert Hall Organization) “Rising Stars” recital series and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two.
Alisa Weilerstein’s love for the cello began when she was just two-and-a-half after her grandmother assembled a makeshift set of instruments out of cereal boxes to entertain her when she was ill with the chicken pox. Alisa, who was born in 1982, was instantly drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello but soon grew frustrated that it didn’t make a sound. After convincing her parents to buy her a real cello when she was four, she showed a natural affinity for the instrument and performed her first public concert six months later. Her Cleveland Orchestra debut was in October 1995, at age 13, playing the Tchaikovsky “Rococo” Variations. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony in March 1997. Ms. Weilerstein is a graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss. In May 2004, she graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree in Russian History. In November 2008 Ms. Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. For more information on Ms. Weilerstein, please visit her fan page on Facebook.
Inon Barnatan, piano
Pianist Inon Barnatan has rapidly gained international recognition for engaging and communicative performances that pair insightful interpretation with impeccable technique. Described by London’s Evening Standard as “a true poet of the keyboard”, Mr. Barnatan performs a diverse range of repertoire, encompassing both classical and contemporary composers, with the variety of the pieces he performs reflected in his being equally valued as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician.
Since moving to the United States in 2006, Mr. Barnatan has made his orchestral debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Houston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, and has performed in New York at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, the Metropolitan Museum and Alice Tully Hall. In 2009 he was awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, an honor reflecting the strong impression he has made on the American music scene in such a short period of time.
In addition to his American appearances, Mr. Barnatan has appeared as a soloist with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, London Soloists Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of New Europe, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and a tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields as a conductor and soloist.
An avid chamber musician, Mr. Barnatan recently completed three seasons as a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two program. In 2009 he curated a festival of Schubert’s late solo piano, songs and chamber music works for the Society, the first musician other than the Society’s Artistic Directors to be invited to program concerts. ‘The Schubert Project’ program has also been performed at the Concertgebouw, the Festival de México, and at the Library of Congress.
Other chamber music performances include the complete Beethoven piano and violin sonatas at the Concertgebouw, the Bergen International Festival in Norway, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, the Delft and the Verbier Festivals and the Lyon Musicades. His rigorous U.S. festival schedule has included a broad range of concerts at the Spoleto Festival USA, the Aspen and Bridgehampton Music Festivals, and the Santa Fe and Seattle Chamber Music Festivals. He has collaborated with musicians such as Liza Ferschtman, Miriam Fried, Martin Fröst, Gary Hoffman, Janine Jansen, the Jerusalem String Quartet, Ralph Kirshbaum, Cho-Liang Lin, Paul Neubauer and Alisa Weilerstein. In 2008 he received the Andrew Wolf Memorial Award in Rockport, awarded every two years to an exceptional chamber music pianist.
Mr. Barnatan’s 2011-12 season appearances include a solo performance as part of the Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, chamber music appearances in New York and a U.S. tour with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and West Coast recitals including opening the Music@Menlo Winter Series and performances at the Portland Piano International. He will make orchestral appearances with the Billings, Chattanooga, Eugene, Jacksonville and Oregon Symphony Orchestras and the Nordwestdeutschen Philharmonie with repertoire spanning a wide range of composers, including Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky. In February 2012 he will embark on an eight-city European tour with cellist Alisa Weilerstein, preceded by concerto and chamber performances in Israel, and he will also undertake a three-week concerto and recital tour of South Africa in November.
In 2012, Mr. Barnatan will release his second solo recording, Darkness Visible featuring wide-ranging but thematically-related works: Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, Thomas Adés’s Darknesse Visible, Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Ronald Stevenson’s Peter Grimes Fantasy and Ravel’s La Valse. Intrigued by the fact that all of these works were inspired by other works of art (Ravel’s Gaspard is based on three poems by Aloysius Bertrand; Darknesse Visible is based on a John Dowland song; Debussy was inspired by a Verlaine poem; Stevenson’s Peter Grimes Fantasy is based on the Benjamin Britten opera; and La Valse is inspired by a story by Edgar Allen Poe), Mr. Barnatan examines how different characteristics of darkness are represented in music. These works will be performed by Mr. Barnatan at his solo recitals this season.
Passionate about contemporary music, Mr. Barnatan regularly commissions and performs music by living composers, including works by Thomas Adès, George Benjamin, George Crumb, Avner Dorman, Kaija Saariaho and Judith Weir among others. Last season, he participated in Carnegie Hall’s “Making Music: James MacMillan” series, performing the composer’s Piano Sonata and chamber piece Raising Sparks.
Mr. Barnatan’s debut CD of Schubert piano works was released on Bridge Records in 2006. London’s Evening Standard wrote: “The young, Israeli born pianist Inon Barnatan is a true poet of the keyboard: refined, searching, unfailingly communicative… This is musicianship of the highest caliber.” Gramophone recommended the recording in its November 2006 award issue, calling Barnatan “a born Schubertian” and praising the CD’s “sensitivity, poise and focus.” His second CD of works for piano and violin by Beethoven and Schubert with violinist Liza Ferschtman was described by All Music Guide as “a magical listening experience.”
Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Inon Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three after his parents discovered he had perfect pitch, and he made his orchestral debut at eleven. His studies connect him to some of the 20th century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers: he studied with Professor Victor Derevianko, who himself studied with the Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus, and in 1997 he moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Maria Curcio – who was a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel – and with Christopher Elton. Leon Fleisher has also been an influential teacher and mentor and in 2004 he invited Mr. Barnatan to study and perform Schubert sonatas as part of a Carnegie Hall workshop, an experience that has had a lasting resonance for Mr. Barnatan. In 2006 Mr. Barnatan moved to New York City, where he currently resides in a converted warehouse in Harlem. For more information about Mr. Barnatan visit www.inonbarnatan.com or visit his page on Facebook.
This is Alisa Weilerstein's International Artist Series debut.
|Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102 No.2
|Sonata in C minor, Op. 6||Barber|
|Sonata in G minor, Op. 19||Rachmaninov|
Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Opus 102, No. 2 Ludwig van Beethoven
(b. Bonn, 1770; d. Vienna, 1827)
Beethoven's career peaked in 1814. The revision and revival of his opera, Fidelio, was welcomed in the context of the times as a rouser to victory over Napoleon. He was fêted by dignitaries and even granted honorary citizenship of Vienna. But as the Congress of Vienna wrapped up in June 1815, the composer found himself at something of a dead end with the "heroic style." The Heroic age had concluded, and aristocrats were ceding place to Biedermeiers.
Beethoven's Opus 102 is a pair of sonatas "for Pianoforte and Violoncello or Violin" in C major and D major respectively. They were completed in August 1815, just before the song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte. Beethoven's compositional output slowed dramatically at this time, as he searched for new ways of working with the sonata form. In Opus 102, he points the way forward to a new, more concentrated style.
A brusque five-note kernel with an octave leap opens the work. The transition adds a counterpoint to that tid-bit, but the texture is generally lean, often just two lines, the rhythm halting, and there are few familiar accompaniment patterns. The coda forshadows the trend toward Romanticism, as cello and piano, hushed, play leap-frog over a trembling bass.
"With a great feeling of affection," a somber hymn— mezza voce: half-voice—alternates with an expressive dialogue between partners. Beethoven's early biographer Schindler thought this "among the richest and most deeply sensitive inspirations of Beethoven's muse." More than that, it is the discovery of new life. As the movement flows on, it sweetens and moves more easily. A quiet third theme—sempre pp—tentatively proposes new keys. When the cello asks a question in the form of a rising scale, the door to the finale opens.
That Allegro fugato is in fact a rigorous four-voice double fugue: two principal themes, introduced separately, then combined. In his last decade, Maynard Solomon writes, "Beethoven reinstated the polyphonic principle as a rival of—and perhaps as the completion of—the sonata principle." Beethoven would incorporate fugues into many of his late works; think of the Hammerklavier Sonata, the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. A compositional solution, perhaps, but one that mystified audiences at the time. After the premiere of Opus 102, Mannheim Kapellmeister Michael Frey wrote: "It is so original that no one can understand it on first hearing." But for today's listener it's much easier: just follow the question.
Program note © 2012 by David Evan Thomas
Sonata in C Minor, Opus 6 Samuel Barber
(b. West Chester PA, 1910; d. New York City, 1981) Samuel Barber was blessed with talent, intelligence, drive—and connections. His aunt was Metropolitan Opera contralto Louise Homer; his uncle was the composer Sidney Homer, who guided young Barber's development and offered much sage advice. Barber entered the newly-founded Curtis Institute in 1924, where right off he met Gian Carlo Menotti, his future companion and a creative force in his own right. The Cello Sonata belongs to a heady time in Barber's early career. It was begun in the summer of 1932— after Barber and Menotti hiked from Innsbruck to the Italian border and made their way to the Menotti villa in Cadegliano—and finished by Christmas. One success followed another: publication by G. Schirmer; a one-hour NBC Music Guild broadcast featuring Barber as composer, pianist and singer; an invitation from RCA Victor to record his Dover Beach, singing the baritone part himself; a Pulitzer traveling scholarship; the Prix de Rome. Few careers in American music have begun with such promise.
Barber's published score bears a dedication to Rosario Scalero, his composition teacher at Curtis. But the piece really belongs to Orlando Cole, the cellist who first played it. Cole taught at Curtis for 75 years, and died only in 2010 at the age of 101!
Poulenc famously said that "there's room for new music that doesn't mind using other people's chords." Barber's early music abounds in major and minor chords, but in new guises and relationships. The harmony, though accessible and full of feeling, doesn't always move in traditional ways. Among the influences, two are exceptional for an American in the 1930s: Brahms and Sibelius. Barber had played the Brahms sonatas as early as 1928 on an Atlantic crossing, and his uncle Sidney was a Brahms advocate. The sympathy with Sibelius went two ways. Though they never met, the Finn wrote an enthusiastic endorsement of Barber's music in 1937. "Skyscrapers, subways, and train lights play no part in the music I write," Barber told the Philadelphia Bulletin. "Neither am I at all concerned with the musical values inherent in geometric cerebrations."
Three great swells, made of wide leaps carrying the cello over nearly three octaves, open the Sonata. When this theme returns, it will be quiet, stretched out, adorned with piano filigree. An elevated second theme in A-flat takes a decidedly Sibelian turn. The middle movement nests a Presto—in Barber's School for Scandal vein— between strains of a heartfelt Adagio. It features a tricky rhythm that could only have come to Barber on the march from Innsbruck. Sibelius is felt again in the stormy clouds of the Allegro appassionato, a rondo with piano interludes. The middle statement of the theme is disguised, scherzando. As you enjoy this passionate, virtuoso work, remember that you're listening to the music of a 22-year-old.
Suite italienne Igor Stravinsky
(b. Lomonosov, Russia, 1882; d. New York City, 1971) Suite italienne is part of the runoff from Stravinsky's ballet Pulcinella. The origins of that go back to 1917, when Serge Diaghilev had great success with a Neapolitan ballet, The Good-Humored Ladies, choreographed by Massine and for which Vincenzo Tommasini had arranged music by Scarlatti. Next, Diaghilev mounted Le astuzie femminili, also with choreography by Massine, this time with music by Cimarosa arranged by Respighi. Wishing to complete his Neapolitan trilogy, he asked Stravinsky to prepare some music by Pergolesi. Pulcinella was produced in Paris in 1920. Again, Massine created the choreography, and Picasso designed the sets and costumes. Stravinsky had found his source material in the British Museum and the Naples Conservatory. Some of it is operatic or otherwise vocal, some of it is instrumental, and almost none of it turns out to be by Pergolesi. Stravinsky's chief collaborators are Domenico Gallo, a mid-eighteenth-century Venetian, and a still more mysterious figure, Unico Wilhelm, Count van Wassenaer, a Dutch diplomat who wrote a series of Concerti armonici that were ascribed to Pergolesi for two centuries. A few parts of Pulcinella remain without certain attribution.
Late in life Stravinsky declared that Pulcinella was the only piece by "Pergolesi" that he really liked. The score is no mere arrangement, as Tommasini's and Respighi's were. The procedure is also quite different from that in The Fairy's Kiss, where genuine Tchaikovsky is mixed with Tchaikovskian Stravinsky. All the material in Pulcinella is eighteenth-century. Stravinsky even begins with music that strikes a pretty convincing eighteenth-century attitude, and it is only in measure eleven that we get a twentieth-century rhythmic foreshortening that puts the next breathing-place at a point rather different from the one we expect. When the same phrase is repeated half a dozen measures later, Stravinsky introduces one of his most characteristic devices, the telescoping of tonic and dominant harmonies.
The original Pulcinella is a work for chamber orchestra with three singers. There are four derivative works, including two suites for violin and piano. The present work, Suite italienne for cello and piano, was transcribed in 1932 by Stravinsky with Gregor Piatigorsky. It begins, as all the suites do, with an Introduzione and, again like all the arrangements, moves on to the Serenata, a charming aria in siciliano style and actually by Pergolesi (from his opera Il Flaminio). Both there and in the ballet it is sung to a pastoral text about a shepherdess who wanders about the woods, singing as she goes. The cello suite is alone in including the comic bass aria "Con queste paroline" also from Il Flaminio, and still more comic in Stravinsky's elegantly zany fragmentation. There follows a tarantella in non-stop 6/8 motion. Like Pulcinella itself and all its derivatives, the cello suite ends with a gravely beautiful aria in minuet tempo from the dialect opera Lo frate 'nnamorato (The Monk in Love), which spills into a giddy finale.
Program note by Michael Steinberg, used by kind permission of Jorja Fleezanis.
Sonata in G Minor, Opus 19 Sergei Rachmaninoff
(b. Oneg, Russia, 1873; d. Beverly Hills, 1943) The humiliating public premiere of his First Symphony in 1897 plunged Rachmaninoff into a depression from which he took three years to emerge. There's no need to diagnose mental illness in the wake of profound disappointment. Whether it was therapy with Dr. Nicolai Dahl, the challenge of a new career as an opera conductor, or simply the effect of cuing great singers like Chaliapin, Rachmaninoff rose from his torpor with renewed energy, conviction, and a warm, singing style that has engaged listeners ever since.
The Sonata for Piano and Cello in G minor was composed in the last half of 1901, shortly after the beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 and at the beginning of a sixteenyear creative streak. It is dedicated to Anatoly Brandukov, who played the premiere. (Brandukov would later be the best man at Rachmaninoff's wedding. In marrying his own first cousin, Natalya Satina, Rachmaninoff gained access to Ivanovka—the huge country estate where he would write most of his music for the rest of his life.) There is no easy Rachmaninoff, and the Sonata is a challenge even for two virtuoso players, but it is also a sonata of memorable melodies. Every movement has at least one, and each is far more than a tune, unfolding with its own logic in an individual setting. And the singer is perhaps the most persuasive of all instrumental voices.
A series of sighs and a starched rhythm—dot-dotdash—launch the movement, which has five distinct tempos. The cello has the first theme, while the piano presents the melancholy second subject alone. Note the narrow compass of this idea in which even a little leap of a third becomes an event. In developing the material, first the second subject, then the opening half-step are featured. A kind of piano cadenza, the first of several references to concerto style, precedes the return to the main theme.
The scherzo is a night ride, furtive to begin with, but with occasional sBefore anyone in the European world had heard of the blues, Rachmaninoff was singin' 'em. Is the Andante's horn-signal theme in major or minor mode? It's hard to say which of the sonata's melodies is most beautiful, but with its carefully-crafted shape and wonderfully delayed pay-off, this one may take the prize. At its height, the glow of Chopin's Nouvelle études suffuses the texture.
Before anyone in the European world had heard of the blues, Rachmaninoff was singin' 'em. Is the Andante's horn-signal theme in major or minor mode? It's hard to say which of the sonata's melodies is most beautiful, but with its carefully-crafted shape and wonderfully delayed pay-off, this one may take the prize. At its height, the glow of Chopin's Nouvelle études suffuses the texture.
The flexing metrics of the finale's heroic main theme are soothed by an equally stirring, but gentler baritone song. Big bell-sounds in the piano—another Rachmaninoff hallmark—prepare us for a poetic close. Instead, we are rushed, breathless, to the double bar"
Program notes © 2012 by David Evan Thomas